“Teacher, with all due respect, please take a minute to read my school history file. While you are doing that, I’ll be going home.” It was the defining moment of his life. It was the answer given to the most cruel of questions. A question that could have crushed so many. But for Bob Viera, it was the question that literally put the wind in his sails for the rest of his life, a life of hard work and determination. Bob Viera is one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. You will read his full story someday. A story that must be told of a true overcomer.
My parents met this couple, Bob and Cindy who live in the same condominium complex, while walking Mia. Mia is the Shitzu-Bishon dog that I insisted that they rescue a few years ago — a dog that my sister and I are sure has nudged us out of our inheritance someday.
Somehow this daily walk at 4:00 pm has become what is known as “Mia Hour” where my dad stops mid-walk and gathers with many friends on Bob and Cindy’s lanai. I think it is just an excuse for a happy hour of fellowship and fun because it must be 5:00 pm somewhere, right?
That is where I started hearing Bob’s countless stories of the life of a Nantucket fisherman, on the day I was invited to “Mia Hour.” The story that intrigued me the most is the one that breaks my heart as an educator.
Bob’s early years as a child were spent battling severe asthma and allergies. With only having a third of the lung capacity of a typical child, this debilitating illness caused him to fall two years behind his peers in school. At the beginning of his eighth grade year of school, Bob’s family moved off of the Nantucket Island to a bigger city. It was there in the first few days of class where his new teacher asked the question still sears in his mind today. “Bob, will you come stand a in front of the class and tell them why you are 16 and still in the eighth grade?” That was the last day that Bob ever attended school. For the next 22 years of his life he lived on fishing boats. His education was gained not through text books, but through living life and making wise choices that bring him to where he is today. Ironically, that is to a small crowded lanai full of retired educators– former teachers and administrators gathering for “Mia
I asked Bob if he had finished high school how his life might be different. He couldn’t answer that because the life he lived is the only one he knows. I say he lived it brilliantly, but I can tell there is a scar left from the cruel words of one person so long ago.
This made me ask myself, “Do the words that come out of my mouth uplift and encourage or tear down and leave wounds?” Bob’s story had me thinking of the power of words. “Sticks and stones will break your bones,” but words….. words can scar you for life. I don’t know how Bob Viera had the fortitude to survive that hurtful question without bitterness? That is a whole other chapter for his book someday.
Bob Viera, as a former teacher and current school counselor, I apologize for what happened to you that day so many years ago. You are my hero!